Begin at the beginning

A time of year when it is hard to keep up with all that is going on. The 2019 Western States Bookstore Tour is about to begin.  You can find dates and places at the end of this post or more details on the bookstore’s Facebook page. Quite the tour!  A few cities where the bookstore has set up before and some new ones.  Look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new people. And of course, talking about books and life.  I am reminded as the tour gets organized, how much we are part of a wider community.  Beth, whom I haven’t seen in years offered to help with the bookstore’s gig in Denver and she put me in touch with her cousin Virginia who lives in Casper. I have yet to meet Virginia in person but she helped sort out where I could set up the bookstore in that part of Wyoming.  A friend of a friend in Grand Junction, old friends who moved to Buena Vista, Anne’s family in Sacramento, and on and on.  I don’t know how one would go about setting up a traveling bookstore tour if it wasn’t for the amazing network of people who are willing to help by making calls, suggesting sites, and/or offering housing.  Thank you!IMG_1480

The 2019 Western States Bookstore Tour runs from May 16 to June 5 which gives me a few days to get home before the local Creative Arts Center‘s annual Trash2Flash event on June 8th.  This arts center does so much to enhance the community where I live that it is obvious I need to contribute to their event.  And that meant creating my outfit prior to taking off on the bookstore tour.  I can’t reveal too many details about the outfit (we each keep ours secret until they hit the runway) but I will say I wanted photographs to be part of it. I put out the word and before the blink of an eye, people were dropping off large envelopes bulging with photos.  So many beautiful ones!  So many that inspired ideas for stories.  I will use some but have bundles that I won’t use in case you want to use them in your own project or to illustrate a book.

Needless to say, my kitchen table is presently covered with books to be sorted, photographs to be sorted, papers and maps, fabric, scissors and thread.

May 16:  Clark’s Fork. Bozeman, MT

May 17: Black Tooth Brewing. Sheridan, WY

May 18: Funky Junk.  Casper, WY

May 20: Stella’s Gourmet Coffee and Such.  Denver, CO

May 20: Elevation Beer.  Poncha Springs, CO

May 21: Cafe Dawn. Salida, CO

May 23: Kannah Creek Brewing. Grand Junction, CO

May 24:  The Christi Reece Group: Grand Junction. CO

May 26: TBA.  Salt Lake City

May 28: Drakes @ The Barn:  Sacramento, CA

June 2: Extracto Coffee.  Portland, OR

June 3: Ace Typewriter. Portland, OR

June 4: Populuxe Brewing.  Seattle, WA

June 5: TBA. Seattle, WA

 

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books and maps and time

I suppose there are people out there who think if one has a traveling bookstore that certain months would be easy. Park the bookstore, stay at home, curl up with delightful books and read through the winter.  And then when Spring actually appears, get out the key, turn on the bookstore and hit the road. Although I am ever hopeful there will be more traveling bookstores in this country (and abroad), I should dissuade you – this is not the case.  There is a bit more work involved.IMG_1441

First there are the incoming books that pile up and pile up and PILE UP until the garage/warehouse is overflowing, and the top of the washing machine (don’t ask me why except it is a flat surface) is full of books and the floor space next to the front door has boxes of books which tip over when visitors come by and everything has to be sorted so the very best reads can then be put in the bookstore or boxed for upcoming trips.

Then there is applying to festivals (Yaak River Fest, Libby’s Riverfront Blues Festival, Montana Book Festival, Baltimore Book Festival, etc) and setting up trips.  The first long distance trip this year is scheduled May 15 – June 7 and is called in my notes, “The Western Bookstore Adventure”. This means getting out the maps, the phone, the computer, and starting to talk with anyone and everyone who might know something about Sheridan, Denver, Grand Junction, Sacramento, Ashland, etc etc etc.  How many miles is it from Casper, WY to Buena Vista, CO?  Who do I know in Salt Lake City who might put me up when the bookstore is there?  Is it a good idea to set up in Winnemucca the last weekend in May during the Run-A-Mucca Motorcycle Rally?  Will the owners of Populuxe Brewing who I briefly met let me set up in their parking lot when I am in Seattle? And how do all these places fit into a three-week travel schedule?  The mantra becomes Pace Yourself. Balance. I am typically not good at either.

Because of course there are so many places I would enjoy taking the bookstore. And there are invites from people whom I would dearly enjoy seeing and meeting.  But for some reason whether I use a paper calendar or the one on my phone, there are only so many days in a week, weeks in a month, months in a year.  There are community commitments in Eureka, MT up until May 14 and the Trash2Flash fashion show/fundraiser June 8. These make bookends for when the traveling bookstore can be out-of-state.  Of course the rest of June and July, the bookstore will set up in Eureka and other parts of Montana, land of my heart.

But for now, its back to organize books, maps, phone, computer, and oh, remember to order business cards, set an appointment for the bookstore to get a tune up, pace yourself, and balance.

Map reads

Getting in some travel this winter without the bookstore but of course there are books involved.  The last trip was by train down through Portland, along the west coast in jumbled connections arranged by Amtrak that included trains, taxi, buses and more trains to finally arrive in Albuquerque.  On the way back to Montana passing through the Bay Area, managed to take trams, ferries, and BART.  Sufficient opportunities to see what people are reading on public transportation.  Saw many copies of Michelle Obama’s Becoming being read, most in English while others were translated editions in Spanish, German, French and one I couldn’t quite decipher.  Had the pleasure of hearing two IMG_0902thought-filled poetry readings, meeting a travel writer for the NY Times, experiencing Pegasus Books and East Bay Booksellers, Powell’s and Broadway Books, and marveled at the number of little free libraries in most neighborhoods we passed through.

At Powell’s, pleased to see people of all ages roaming the aisles which are carefully numbered and mapped out.  Thought about what a map of my traveling bookstore might look like if I designed one. Although my bookstore has only one aisle, it does offer diversity of place.  The map would need to incorporate those places in various times.  Powell’s has one map as its aisles ( and bookstore) are stationary.  A map of St. Rita’s Traveling Bookstore would obviously require more advanced cartographic techniques.

Appreciated Amtrak‘s customer service, especially Libbi in Portland who helped out with muddled reservations, the woman at the Sacramento station who arranged for a forty-eight mile taxi ride so we could make our connection, and the Amtrak bus driver between Bakersfield and LA who had a lovely smile, purple braids and made us feel warmly welcomed despite the damp weather.  In general, nearly everyone encountered renewed our faith in humanity: the waitstaff at Milo’s, Don at Robertson & Sons Violin Shop, the man at Smyths Accordions who didn’t mind us all squeezed into the tiny showroom as Ray tried out various accordions.

Arriving home inspired to try harder, to start planning the spring bookstore trip heading south, and to be kinder to people met by chance on the road.

 

 

A new venture

We started a new book club in the Tobacco Valley.  It’s called the Open Book Club because you don’t have to RSVP to attend. You just have to read the book and show up to talk about it at HA Brewery. Okay…so maybe there are a few more suggestions.  You should show up by 2:00pm when it starts and only one person talks at a time.  No doubt this is something many of us heard growing up (“Let them finish – don’t interrupt”). When there is a group discussion, listen to the person talking before adding your ideas.  img_0840

Today was the first meeting and it did go well.  People showed up and we had a great conversation. The book was Ivan Doig’s The Sea Runners which seemed like the ideal story to begin a new venture with.  We set out without knowing exactly where we were going.  No idea what we might run into. None of us knew who might be there to take part.  Eight readers showed up for this first one – a hearty group to begin the adventure.  At the end of the discussion, different individuals took on a month they will be responsible for. This means selecting the book and promising to be there for that month’s discussion.

This is an interesting community activity I hope other communities are trying.  It might be easy to have a book club where we know each other well like an old shoe.  Its comfortable. You know what to expect. But an Open Book Club where you aren’t really sure what the person sitting next to you thinks – helps push the envelope on communication skills.  And perhaps it brings up ideas you hadn’t considered. The people at the table aren’t old friends you met with monthly for years, but whoever wanted to talk about Doig’s book this particular Sunday afternoon.  One woman at today’s gathering brought a marine atlas so we could look at Canada’s western coastline to better imagine what the men faced as they canoed from Alaska to Oregon.

I already look forward to next month.

Feb 17: Soundings: The Story of the Remarkable Woman Who Mapped the Ocean Floor by Hali Felt (Collins)

March 17: White Waters and Black by Gordon MacCreagh (Schloeder)

April 21: Utopia by Thomas More (Elrod)

May 19:  Devotion: An Epic Story of Heroism, Friendship and Sacrifice by Adam Makos (Hvizdak))

June 16: The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow (Gill)

July 21: East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Hindle)

 

Stand up

I am traveling.  Currently traveling without the bookstore as I am on the other side of the ocean.  Regardless of where I am, there are opportunities to meet good people, to have thought provoking encounters.  Recently a juxtaposition of conversations pushed me to examine the expectations I hold and the impatience I often feel these days.96FFE953-152D-4015-87AF-E268C380881F

I met a social activist in Brno, Czech Republic.  She is heartedly involved in local politics, searching out how to improve services for older people, and helping with ways to feed the homeless in her city among other causes she is involved with. During our conversation I was inspired and relieved that this person was trying so hard to improve the quality of life for people in her extended community.

There are others I conversed with on this trip.  Some people teach school, others raise families, or are artists, or work in IT, or are retired.  Some volunteer at summer camps and others help in prisons in their spare time, while some put together community theater after day jobs. Is there any particular work or community service that is better than another?  Surely there is a need in every place for carpenters, cooks, shop assistants, musicians, doctors, welders, and teachers.  And thus there must also be a need for the various ways people freely contribute to their community.  Scout leaders, hospice volunteers, parents who help at schools, individuals who donate to the arts, drivers for Meals on Wheels, people who write letters to elected officials, and those who take to the streets to counter injustice.

I want every individual to give to their community in a meaningful way.  Some religions encourage tithing a percentage of income. Is it unrealistic to ask people to tithe a percentage of time? And what age should we begin?  In one conversation recently, a young man told me he didn’t volunteer but tried to live a caring life helping his friends.  Another person said she didn’t volunteer but was working to raise her children well.  That her contribution to the larger community would be these two children who grew up polite, creative, thoughtful.  These answers challenged my hope we can be caring to those in our immediate circle and help improve the greater community as well. Is this expecting too much?  Can a parent who has skills to raise children give four hours a week to help other children in an after school program or work towards improving state or federal education policy? Can the man who cares about his friends donate time at a homeless shelter or become involved with NAMI? Over the last few years, a number of individuals and groups began to provide accessible ways to make a difference without leaving home.  Jen Hoffman’s Americans of Conscience Checklist is one.

Yes, we can have meaningful conversations, care for our children, help our friends. But these are very much within the context of our community, our state, our country.  Our efforts need to include this context if we truly care about anyone.

 

Mixt

That time of year.  So much going on.  A few bookstore events, a note about bookstore tshirts and a bit of literary nonfiction.

November 24:  Shop Small Saturday! The bookstore sets up next to Montana Farmacy in Eureka.  Perfect location for a Textual Apothecary.  9am – 3pm

December 1: Holly Faire! The bookstore sets up at the Creative Arts Center for their holiday bazaar.  9am – 5pm.  1st Ave West in Eureka.

Bookstore tshirts People send inquiries about purchasing traveling bookstore tshirts.  As this isn’t an online business, it is a small challenge to find the ideal way to fill orders.  If you send a check with your order (size, men or women’s style, mailing address), the tshirt you want will be mailed.  $25/shirt.  St. Rita’s Traveling Bookstore  PO Box 2036  Eureka, MT 59917. But of course it is better to meet the bookstore while it is on the road and get your shirt at a discounted price as well as conversation.

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My name is Friedrich Gustav Emil Martin Niemöller. My friends call me Martin. As with most of us who reach the sixth decade, many things touched our lives over the years. Many things – some tender as a delicate blossom in spring, some strong as a tank pushing through barbed wire into war. Some we barely notice like the first time I walked into Rosenstein’s store to buy a bottle of ink. One is on my body forever.

My father was a minister and my mother was a very sweet woman. They raised me in the Lutheran faith, a strict German family, quite conservative and yet I felt loved by my parents while growing up. After completing high school, I entered the Navy and eventually served on submarines and U-boats. Unfortunately or should I say fortunately depending on where you stand on such matters, Germany was in the First World War at that point. By 1918, I grew to know beyond a doubt military life and war were not for me. I considered following in my father’s footsteps, to become a minister.

But before starting down that path, I had the wonderful fortune to meet Else and we married in 1919. Who could have asked for a better woman and wife? We decided to try farming as I envisioned a bucolic life together tending the fields, raising children, sitting by the stove on snowy winter nights reading to each other. But it was difficult for us to get enough money to buy a small farm so we decided I should pursue becoming a minister. Finally I was ordained in 1924  and received my first placement as curate at Münster’s Church of the Redeemer.

We did well in those years. I was able to do what the church and congregation needed and expected of me. Eventually we moved to serve a larger church outside Berlin. With Else and my vocation, life settled into a pattern I enjoyed and appreciated. Evenings after dinner when there weren’t church events, Else and I sat in the parlor. Sometimes I would have a small glass of schnapps, smoking my pipe as I read. Else worked on her sewing. She sewed christening outfits for infants. She had a way with delicate stitches on those tiny clothes.

During quiet evenings at home we might listen to the radio. There was quite a lot going on in the early 1930s. Adolf Hitler was about to become Chancellor. I thought he had good ideas how to strengthen our country and improve the economy. Once in 1932, I actually met with the man as I represented the committee of Protestant churches. When we spoke together that afternoon, I believed he had our country’s best interests at heart. He had a vision that inspired me. He solemnly promised he would maintain the laws of the Church. There might be some restrictions against Jews but nothing serious. I saw he truly wanted our country to be strong and good. He was looking for the best way to accomplish this and I had faith in him. When I left that meeting, I nearly ran I was so excited to get home. I wanted to tell Else how fortunate we were as Germans to have this leader, to have this future for our children.

I will always remember that evening. Else and I talked of our plans for the next year, how I might apply to a larger church. We even drank a small toast together after the children were in bed. Our family was growing and with the little ones, it would be prudent for me to find a position better suited for a large family. There was such a glow that evening. There was such a glow.

But the glow didn’t last. Within the year it became evident Hitler had other plans, which were not in keeping with Church laws. His government took over churches, dictating what was allowed. It was a difficult time and I didn’t know what to do. Else looked to me for answers but what could I tell her? Members in my congregation had growing concerns. Should they be worried? Could this government be voted out?

One afternoon I struggled writing a sermon, trying to find the right words to calm people’s fears. I remember it was an early Thursday afternoon. The children were quietly resting following lunch. I needed ink for my pen and appreciated the opportunity for a short walk to the stationary shop a few blocks away. I looked forward to chatting with Mr. Rosenstein about pens and papers because we both appreciated quality in writing supplies. The afternoon weather was brisk but warm enough. The blue sky with a few random clouds put me in a better mood. Surely we would weather this government and move on to something better.

Arriving at the shop, I was surprised to find it locked. The blinds were drawn and I immediately thought something must have happened to Mr. Rosenstein or his wife. I went to the newspaper kiosk a few steps away to ask the gentleman there if he knew. He winked and told me the Rosensteins had moved. Moved? That didn’t make the least bit of sense. What about their shop? The man looked at me as though I was a dunce. “They’re Jews, for godsake! The government is finally taking them away.”

I needed to do something. But truth be told I didn’t know what to do. You might think a man of the cloth would pray and ask for guidance at a time like this. But it was as though some dark heavy wool settled not only on my country but on my faith and my mind. I met with other ministers who were also troubled by the increasing violence and propaganda. We formed a group to oppose these anti-Christian governmental policies. We asked for meetings but Hitler’s regime had no use for us by then.

We still tried. I could have tried harder, but I didn’t know then how terrible it would become. I truly didn’t know. On a hot July morning I sat with Else in the garden’s shade as the children played. There was a knock at the door. Else went to answer. How could she know it was the police there to arrest me? We were a good German family. I was a minister. Yet they took me to a prison. Eventually they sent me to Dachau.

Dachau was the first camp the Nazis built. It grew over time into what they called sub camps. There were so many prisoners being brought in they needed to continually expand the complex. Tens of thousands of Germans, Austrians, Poles, French and Czechs. And yes, there were many clergy imprisoned at Dachau along with Jews. The Nazis thought clergy whether Catholic or Protestant would persuade people to fight against the insanity of the government. So they locked us up, used us as fodder along with the others. Seven years I was at Dachau. Seven years living in a hell only humans could create.

So many deaths. So much senseless torture. So many lives torn asunder. We rarely had news from outside the walls. I tried to picture Else and the children around the table eating dinner together or out in the garden. But mostly all I managed was to survive, to do whatever I was told. And then one day, one which had dawned like so many others, life changed when US soldiers opened the gates.

Did I know what to do? No. I managed to find Else. The children, well, they were no longer children as seven years had passed. Two had died. I wanted so badly to go back to the days when I was a minister and the children were small, when life had a rhythm I understood. Now I understood nothing. My life had become something I never could have imagined. Would I ever feel love for my country again, this country which committed such atrocities?

With other German ministers, I compiled a document that testified to our guilt, admitted our shame in not doing more. But the document was a flimsy piece of paper compared to the millions of innocents lost. It meant nothing.

Recently I met a scientist who explained in detail the type of bombs the Americans dropped on Japan. Again I felt the black horror men are capable of committing. I cried as the scientist described the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the shadows etched on sidewalks where people were incinerated by those bombs. And I knew I must act. I began working for peace. I talk with anyone I can. I tell them the mistakes I made and how this time we must stand firm against the worse parts of humanity.

4 February 2017, West Point Cadets tour the Permanent Exhibition.

 

 

 

 

My Oh My

As a traveling bookstore based in northwest Montana, I take winter seriously.  Travels slow down this time of year and most events are closer to home until early Spring.  Yes, there is still sorting books and ordering tshirts, reading because of course talking books is up brittanythere among favorite activities, and getting the typewriter repaired after a summer of many children trying it out with youthful vigor.  The bookstore will open for Shop Small Saturday (November 24) next to Montana Farmacy in Eureka and then on December 1 at the Holly Faire in Eureka.

But this last week there was such a flurry of activity on the bookstore’s social media I wondered what in the world was going on.  Not only ‘likes’ but messages, phone calls, emails and tshirt orders.  It took a few days to determine that an article about the traveling bookstore on Bookbub had gotten the word out to many corners of the world. A bookseller in India wrote me about the van, an author in Colorado invited me to visit, and a writer in Sheboygan, Wisconsin offered to send me copies of her books. And these are just a few of the numerous people who wrote such good things to me about the bookstore and the idea of making books available in all sorts of out of the way places.

This could be a very long post but I assume you are busy helping to get the vote out and/or thinking about the upcoming holidays.  Let me narrow my thoughts to just a few. This fall has been a challenging one for us all with the elections, decisions made in Washington, and the tragedies in Pittsburgh, Kentucky and Florida.  There are many times even within a day when I wonder what I can do to help my community, my country. When the bookstore’s social media started ringing off the wall, I assumed it was something devious but then realized there were good people out there, united around the idea of books and reading, and enthused to see someone with a new bookstore concept (albeit small).  To me, it felt like light coming through the clouds.  Not that it changed the political situation, but it was a reminder of our shared humanity in a tiny way.

Also I wanted to thank Brittany Shoot who was the first journalist to recognize the wonders of a traveling bookstore.  I found this photo from when she hung with the bookstore on a very chilly morning in Woodstock, Illinois.  It was in the parking lot of Isabel’s Family Restaurant.  Another reminder with Brittany’s cheering the bookstore on through snow and ice and Isabel’s providing awesome pie how despite the miles and countless stops, how much the bookstore needs a community even when traveling.

Thank you.